Election expected as NI Executive reboot bid fails

Sinn Fein leader in the north Michelle O'Neill leads her party at Stormont on Thursday. (Pacemaker)Sinn Fein leader in the north Michelle O'Neill leads her party at Stormont on Thursday. (Pacemaker)
Sinn Fein leader in the north Michelle O'Neill leads her party at Stormont on Thursday. (Pacemaker)
A last minute attempt to restart the Northern Ireland Executive ended in failure and is expected to result in a December election being announced.

Politicians gathered at Stormont on Thursday for a final attempt to elect a Speaker and Ministers in a move which could have restored the Executive and seen Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O’Neill officially becoming First Minister.

However the pro-Brexit DUP again refused to take part, citing once more its unhappiness with the NI Protocol, and sparking fresh criticism from several other parties.

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The DUP has repeatedly refused to nominate ministers to the new Executive since the election in May, when Sinn Féin became the largest in the north.

The deadline for the parties to form an Executive was set for midnight on Thursday and it is expected that Secretary of State for NI Chris Heaton-Harris will now call a new Assembly election for around mid-December. Current caretaker Ministers will also be replaced by senior civil servants.

There has been widespread criticism of the £6.5m price tag for an election when people are facing a cost of living crisis.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Michelle O’Neill said: “The formation of an Executive has again been blocked today.

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"This is an insult to workers and families who are struggling to heat their homes. And hard pressed health workers who need support.

“Those denying democracy must stop punishing people, and work with us to deliver change.”

DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson meanwhile this week indicated the DUP will not change until the Protocol issue is dealt with.

He said: “The Secretary of State has been very forthright in his comments around the prospect of an Assembly Election. It is entirely up to him whether that happens, but the DUP will go into any election seeking to renew our mandate that the Protocol must be replaced with arrangements that can secure the support of unionists as well as nationalists.

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“Whatever changes an election might bring, it won’t change the fundamental need for cross-community consent. No unionist elected to the Assembly in May supports the Protocol and there is no-one who credibly believes that will change should there be an election in December."

Alliance Leader Naomi Long said she was “ashamed” to be part of the Stormont “circus” and criticised the DUP.